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The Glove

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h1={color:#000;}. The Glove

Copyright 2016 by Jeanne Grunert

Published by Bricks & Brambles Press, Prospect, Virginia

Cover Photo ©DepositPhotos.com/nacroba

This story originally appeared in the anthology, An Ancient Gift & Other Stories.

Shakespir Edition

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h2<>{color:#000;}. Shakespir Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Shakespir.com or your favorite retailers and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

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h1<>{color:#000;}. Disclaimer

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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h1<>{color:#000;}. About the Author

Jeanne Grunert is an award-winning writer, novelist, and blogger. Jeanne’s fiction is known for its infusion of Gothic and supernatural elements, realistic characters, and page-turning plots. Her non-fiction books focus on gardening and business. She is a columnist for Virginia Gardener magazine, a prolific blogger at “Home Garden Joy” her gardening website, and a professional copywriter for companies and agencies worldwide. She currently lives and works in Virginia on her hobby farm, Seven Oaks.

FOLLOW

Visit the author’s website: jeannegrunert.com

“Like” her Fan page on Facebook

BOOKS BY JEANNE GRUNERT

[+ I Believe You+] (A Majek Family Story)

An Ancient Gift and Other Stories

Coming soon: [+ The Red Boy House+] (A Majek Family Story)

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h2={color:#000;}. [] The Glove

Outside of our house, a chill grey mist falls, soaking both my husband Roger and my son Bryan as they load Bryan’s suitcase into the car. Roger runs back into the house for his windbreaker while Bryan waves frantically to me through the windows of the car. Roger gives me quick kiss and murmurs, “Don’t worry. I’ll be back before the old man can start in on me,” and then he is in the car, and the Buick roars off in a cloud of bluish-gray smoke towards Grandpa’s house. Grandpa is expecting me to bring Bryan for the week, but here I am, stuck in bed with pneumonia, and the doctor has suggested that Bryan should stay clear of me for a while. Roger is driving Bryan through the fog and rain back to Grandpa’s house. Grandpa, with his irrational likes and dislikes, dislikes my husband. But there’s no one else to take Bryan for a few days until I get back on my feet.

I’m coughing again. I can’t stop coughing. I wish Roger would come home, but they’ve only just left. I toss and turn, fret and cough.

Grandpa’s house…I can remember it vividly, as if I were nine years old again. What did we do that summer, the summer I was nine? This damn fever keeps me up half the night and makes me confused during the day. I can’t remember why I felt so frightened when Grandpa insisted that Bryan come and stay with him while I rest at home. Why do I still have nightmares about the cellar, and the Lentini boy, the one who refused to talk ever again after that summer?

But I suppose it’s all right. After all, Roger wouldn’t let Bryan stay if he sensed danger. And yet I sense danger, and Roger, my practical, pragmatic Roger, insists it’s because I’m ill. But he know my nightmares are real enough.

An image flows through my mind. Tools. Soil. Gardening? Something from that summer when I was nine, the same something that still gives me nightmares. It’s there, pushing at the edge of my consciousness, on the tip of my tongue, just out of reach.

Will Bryan have nightmares, too?

I fall into a heavy sleep….and remember in my dreams what I am afraid of.

We were just a bunch of bored nine-year olds that hot July morning. Grandpa had gone fishing with Mr. Svenson, leaving us in the care of Miss Nita, the maid, who didn’t care what we did as long as she got her work done and could watch her game shows at noon. But this took all the fun out of fiddling with the controls on the television set so that the people turned green, or letting Doug’s dog into the bathroom to drink from the toilet. Without an audience, it just wasn’t fun anymore.

We sat on the back steps, me, Doug, Paul and the little Lentini kid, the one whose family Grandpa hated. I didn’t know why Grandpa hated the Lentinis so much. He just did, I guess. Sometimes at the dinner table he made fun of Mrs. Lentini and the way she always went down to the little Catholic church every day to say her rosary, or he told us how Mr. Lentini was just a garbage man and not like the other engineers, lawyers and accountants who lived on our block. Dominic was kind of a nervous, fidgety kid, but we didn’t mind him hanging out with us occasionally. It beat having Lenny who lived around the corner hang out with us. He picked his nose.

“We could steal Mrs. Cook’s laundry and dress up Ginger,” Paul suggested, scuffing the toe of an already filthy sneaker into the dirt at the side of the driveway.

“Laura would tell on us again,” Doug said gloomily.

“Let’s go to the pool,” I suggested.

“We were just there yesterday,” Paul said.

“I know!” Doug said. He jumped up. “Let’s play spook house!”

“Spook house?” Dominic Lentini asked nervously. “Whose house is haunted?”

Paul looked at him as if to say, “Can you believe this kid?” He turned to Dominic and said, “Kathy’s house is haunted. The ghost of a dead pirate lives there.”

“Captain John,” I said solemnly.

Dominic’s eyes had grown huge, and he looked at our solidly built brick colonial like it was a falling-down wreck at the end of an abandoned road instead of a normal house on a rather busy side street.

“Yes, it’s haunted,” Doug said, “and we’ll show you the ghosts, Dominic.”

“You stay here with Ginger,” I said to Dominic. “We’ll show you the ghost in a few minutes.”

Me, Doug and Paul jumped to our feet and ran down into the cellar, leaving Dominic sitting on the stoop with Ginger, Doug’s Golden Retriever. Grandpa’s cellar was half-finished, the left side paneled in knotty pine, the right side left with a cement floor and crumbling plaster walls. He had expressly forbidden me from playing down there. He kept dangerous chemicals in the cellar, he had said, but I’d snuck down there once and hadn’t seen anything except a washer, dryer, and an old round crystal in a birdbath. I thought it was a garden decoration he hadn’t put out, but he had a cloth over it, and it looked old. The next time I came over, though, it was gone, and I didn’t ask him about it. I was too afraid he’d be mad at me for going into the forbidden cellar.

Doug, Paul and I went down the stairs at a gallop. Doug stopped at the bottom of the stairs and we all crashed into him. “Hey,” I said, “Why did you stop?”

“What’s the deal?” Doug asked, pointing to the finished side. “Why all the folding chairs? Our house has a couch, a TV, the computer, and my dad’s pool table downstairs. This looks like a weird church basement.”

It did remind me of the basement at the church where we had Bible study classes on Sunday. Something had been drawn in chalk on the floor, a circle with something in the middle of it, but erased so that only a red ghostly outline shone on the white tile floor. “C’mon,” I said. “The other part of the basement is spookier.”

“How can anything be spookier than this?” Paul whispered, but I pushed past him and opened the door on the right that led into the unfinished part. I fumbled for the light cord hanging from the bare bulb screwed into the ceiling, and a dull, sickly light suffused the unfinished side of the basement.

“Perfect,” Doug breathed. “We’ll scare Dominic so bad he won’t tag along with us the rest of the summer.”

Shadows rushed from the flaking plaster walls. They leaped off of the lockers Grandpa had bought at the high school when they replaced them with newer ones. The lockers stood like coffins along the wall. I knew from my last unauthorized visit down here that he kept shoe polish, glue, ant killer and stuff like that in one of them. The other held hammers, nails, a saw, a drill, and other tools. A third locker was devoted to ancient copies of magazines crawling with silverfish, old raincoats, and boots.

Doug opened the third locker and pushed aside some of the raincoats. He squeezed himself in, back to the wall, and folded his arms across his chest. “Just the right size for a mummy case, isn’t it, Paul?”

“Perfect,” Paul said.

“What do mummies have to do with pirates?” I asked. “We told Dominic it was a pirate ghost.”

“Mummies, pirates, it’s all scary,” Doug said with authority.

Paul picked up a rag from the floor and twisted it around his head. A sheet from the laundry pile completed his ghostly, ghoulish costume. He started staggering around the room, arms outstretched, and we all laughed.

Just then, a great grumbling roar shook the basement, sending the light cord swaying and shadows rushing along the walls. Even Doug paled and stepped closer to the stairs leading back to the comforting warmth and light of the kitchen.

“What’s that?” he demanded.

“The oil burner,” I said. “It’s ancient. Grandpa keeps saying he’ll get it fixed, but he doesn’t. Isn’t it a beast?” I showed them the hulking red metal beast in the corner. Pipes wrapped in white grappled with each other, icy fingers of cold, hissing fingers of steam sending water throughout the house from the water heater and purifier. If you turned off the light now, right now, it looked like a bug – a big, nasty old bug grinning at you from the panel that held a curved black logo whose paint had long since flecked off.

“It’s not the oil burner, Kathy,” Doug said softly, cocking his head as if listening to something far off. “It’s souls in torment. Listen to them groan!”

For an instant, it was as if I too could hear the lamentations of the damned crying for water as the fires of hell parches their thirsty throats. In truth, the oil burner was so badly insulated and so inefficient at its job that waves of searing heat flowed from it now that it had kicked on.

Doug walked around the cellar pointing to objects, quickly arranging them to suit his clever fantasy. He wove a story rapidly, assigning us parts, making us repeat lines. We heard Ginger barking outside the cellar window and realized that Dominic would be getting anxious; even better, Doug promised, to have him a little on edge before he came down the stairs.

“All right, let’s go,” Doug said. As we ran back to the cellar stairs, Doug spied something on the other side of the finished basement that made him veer off and careen to the corner.

“Don’t do that!” I said as he picked up something lurking in the shadows. “Grandpa doesn’t want us down here. If he knows you touched anything, he’ll kill us.”

Doug tugged on his prize. It was a pair of grimy, dirty gardening gloves. The suede palms had stiffened with repeated use so that the hands curved into brazen black claws, frozen into grabbing hands two sizes too big for his childish fists.

“Don’t be a baby,” Doug said disdainfully. He tugged off the gardening gloves and threw them onto the washing machine. I remember vividly the black, stained fingers, and the weird feeling that they had twitched after Doug tossed them down onto the white enamel lid of the machine.

It was my job to lead Dominic downstairs. I did so with a dramatic flourish, trying not to giggle while Tony floundered in the now darkened unfinished part of the basement.

It all worked – too well. Paul staggered out of the locker, groaning in his best imitation of a mummy, and put his hands around Dominic’s neck. Doug jumped out from behind the oil burner just as it wheezed to a halt, sending a heavy sigh and groan through the basement. Dominic shrieked once, just once, and raced up the stairs, the back door slamming behind him. We could hear him sobbing as he ran down the driveway towards his house up the block.

“Children! Children!” Miss Nita shrieked from upstairs. “What have you been doing down there? Thought you were told never play down there!” She wouldn’t come downstairs. She stood at the top, looked down, spat and made the sign of the cross. “You come up here. Now!”

We laughed and congratulated each other on a job well done. “Scared baby,” Doug said derisively. “He’ll tell, too.”

He sure did. When we were eating dinner that night, the phone rang. It was Mrs. Lentini. She demanded to talk to Grandpa. Did Grandpa know what we had been doing that afternoon? Little Dominic had been so terrified he could barely whimper the tale of our spook house adventure to his mother. I hunched down in my chair at the dinner table, wishing the floor would open and swallow me up. I thought Grandpa would be furious with me for disobeying him and playing in the basement. But when he finally hung up the phone in the kitchen and returned to the dining room, I could see he was laughing.

“Taking after your grandpa already, my gal,” he said, grinning. “So, that four-eyed Lentini kid is too scared to play at ghosts? I wonder what would happen if we really played spook house.”

“Grandpa?” I asked timidly. “What do you mean?”

He merely smiled and brought a forkful of peas to his lips. “Never mind,” he said. “After dinner, we’re going into the cellar. This time I’m going to give you something extra special to play spook house with.”

The next rainy day, Grandpa suggested we play spook house with the special things he had given to me. Doug and Paul were all for it, but I wasn’t so sure. Grandpa had good ideas about how to make the game scarier, but what he had taught me – was it right? My parents were big on right and wrong and treating others how they wanted to be treated. But they weren’t here. They were in Europe. It was me on my own with Grandpa and Miss Nita that summer, and Miss Nita would have nothing to say on the subject except mind your grandpa and don’t forget to put the milk back in the refrigerator when you’re done. Miss Nita had hinted that Grandpa was more than a retired plumber like he said he was, and she seemed a little afraid of him sometimes. But Grandpa loved me. Of that, I was sure. He wouldn’t do anything to harm me.

Would he?

Doug and Paul came over as soon as I called them. I told them the plan. We were going to do it just like the last time – only with some new stuff Grandpa had made up.

I walked over to the washing machine where Grandpa’s gloves lay coiled and waiting.

“Hey, Kathy,” Doug asked nervously, “What are you doing?”

“Something Grandpa taught me to make the spook house more fun,” I said. I took the special powder Grandpa had given to me and the water from the little glass vial he kept in a locked, velvet-lined box, and sprinkled it on the gloves. “Now you’ve got to read this special prayer while I make the sign of the cross backwards over them.”

“Isn’t that a bad thing to do?” Paul whispered.

“Grandpa says it’s all right if it’s just in fun,” I said stubbornly, even though I wasn’t so sure it was okay, either.

Prayers and crosses complete, I left Doug and Paul downstairs while I called Dominic from the kitchen telephone. At first, I wasn’t sure he’d fall for it, but finally he said he’d come. I lied and told him we were going to play Monopoly in my kitchen so that his mother would give him permission to come over. Grandpa had suggested that plan and he was right. It worked.

“He’s coming!” I hissed from my place in the dining room where I watched from behind the drapes. Doug and Paul scrambled for their places in the basement.

Miss Nita answered the door, calling to me that my friend was here. I met Dominic in the kitchen. “Hi,” he said. “Where are the others?”

“They’ll be here in a minute,” I said. “I have to get the Monopoly game. It’s in the cellar. Come with me?”

“Oh no,” Dominic said. “I’m not going down there again. My mother said not to.”

“But I’m scared!” I said. I grabbed his hand. “Come on, come with me.”

“I can’t,” he said. “My mother will kill me!”

“What are you, a baby or something?” I demanded. “I’m a girl. Shouldn’t you be braver than me?”

At that old insult, he bit his lip. “Well, okay,” he said. “But just to help you find the game. We’re playing in the kitchen, right?”

“Sure,” I said. “We always play Monopoly in the kitchen.”

I led him down the cellar stairs. “Mom said it was all a fake. Before. You know.”

“Sure, I know,” I said. “Come on.”

I led the way into the unfinished portion of the basement. Just as we crossed the threshold, Doug intoned, “Spirits make you presence known!”

It was almost the exact phrase he had used before. But this day – this day!

The single hanging light bulb by the oil burner suddenly went crazy swinging in an unseen wind. It glowed a fierce, bright yellow, like a demon’s glaring eye, then exploded with a pop that sent glass shards flaring wildly out in a twinkling spiral. Someone screamed. We were left in the dark, musty cellar. The rainstorm outside made the day so dark that even the tiny windows high up near the ceiling let in only a faint gray glow. We were on our own.

“Kathy? Where are you?”

“By the door. Paul?”

“Next to you.”

“Doug?”

“I’m by the oil burner.”

“Dominic?”

“I’m – I’m by the washing machine.”

And then we heard it. The sickening, maddening sound that haunts my nightmares even to this day. The scrambling sound of claws, or stiff canvas fingers crawling across enamel. It echoed in the hollow space of the washing machine drum, scritch-scratch-thump, as something obscene crawled along the surface.

“Guys?” Dominic whimpered. “Come on, stop fooling around. Who tapped me on the shoulder?”

No one moved. Suddenly, we heard Dominic’s thin, high wail. The scrambling sound grew frantic, eager. Then it stopped. Dominic’s voice ended in mid-shriek. Four terrified kids scrambled upstairs, while in Grandpa’s cellar, a strange, howling wind, smelling of centuries-old decay, blew through our spook house. Everyone else bolted, but for some strange reason I stopped. I heard the scratching sound again. I turned around.

There, creeping up the stairs, inch by inch, were Grandpa’s blackened gardening gloves.

I woke Roger with my screams the night after Bryan left. I know why going to Grandpa’s house is horrible, why I must go and get Bryan back, right now. Roger is using his predictable, rational voice on me again, but I won’t listen.

“It’s two-thirty in the morning, Kath! Nothing will happen to Bryan now. He’s asleep.”

All I can hear is Dominic’s scream. His last sound before he refused to talk again. Ever.

And all I can see are the lighter marks on the tips of the stiffened canvas and suede fingers, where the dirt had been rubbed off onto the smooth, clean white neck of the boy whose family Grandpa hated.

THANK YOU

Thank you for downloading this free short story. If you enjoyed it, you may enjoy other works by Jeanne Grunert.

FOLLOW

Visit the author’s website: jeannegrunert.com

“Like” her Fan page on Facebook

BOOKS BY JEANNE GRUNERT

[+ I Believe You+] (A Majek Family Story)

An Ancient Gift and Other Stories

Coming soon: [+ The Red Boy House+] (A Majek Family Story)


The Glove

Nightmares haunt Kathy's feverish dreams. She must send her son to stay with her grandfather while she recovers from the flu, but something lurks beyond the shadows of memory. “The Glove” offers the chilling tale of a woman recounting how her grandfather’s prejudices - and gift for sorcery - terrorized a neighborhood boy. Is her son at risk, too?This short story originally appeared in the anthology, "An Ancient Gift and Other Stories."

  • ISBN: 9781370964116
  • Author: Jeanne Grunert
  • Published: 2016-12-26 20:20:08
  • Words: 3455
The Glove The Glove